Kutullo Makgatho wanted to be gynaecologist, but her matric results were not high enough for her to get into medical school. She decided that she would take the long route to becoming a doctor by doing another degree before focusing her energies on medical school. Her plan B — a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology and Management — is turning her into a game changer.
The 24-year-old from Joburg developed a baby-monitoring app that she hopes will eliminate Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby. It usually happens while they’re sleeping and under a year-old, and its cause is unknown. SIDS is the most common cause of deaths among infants. “My passion for medicine never left me, and I kept thinking about ways of going back to school,” says Kutullo.
She knew she had to do it when her friend and uncle lost babies
That was until she realised she didn’t need to be a doctor to save lives — she could use technology, but it wasn’t until her friend and her uncle lost their babies to SIDS that she figured out how she would save lives. “SIDS has no cause or cure, and I just couldn’t understand why infants had to die,” she says.
Her solution is Fema Baby Monitor, a kit that has a bracelet worn by a caregiver and an anklet for the infant. Fema Baby Monitor uses wireless communication to transmit a baby’s breathing, pulse, blood pressure, cry and temperature to the bracelet. The receiver, as the bracelet is called, uses a vibrator, LCD screen and microphone to communicate any abnormalities.
Although it took four months to build the app, the experience wasn’t as easy as having a game-changing idea and acting on it. “A lot of companies I pitched the app to said, “No,” to it, like it was just a dream and never going to become reality. Others said it would be impossible to make the product and that it didn’t have the right mechanics. I think gender played a role. They didn’t think that a woman could create such an app and undermined my knowledge and ability because they didn’t know how they would pull it off,” she recalls.
Kutullo dealt with the rejection by simply building the app herself. Her app built, the next hurdle was getting it into the market. This is where Innovation Hub, a tech incubator that connects ideas and innovators to business experience and mentorship, comes in. Here, Kutullo learned that one of the most important aspects of having a great idea is taking full ownership of it, which is how she ended up founding her company, Fema Innovation, in 2014. “We have 15 innovations that are based around babies and their health and pregnant women. I’m also working on a contraceptive device that I’m trying to get out,” she says. Fema Baby Monitor will hit the market in December after Kutullo has been to China, where the product is fairly cheaper to produce.
Kutullo says you don’t have to be a techie to innovate. “You just need to be willing to learn. If you have a good idea, it’s easy to find help,” she says, adding that if you want to start building apps, it’s worth attending Hack-a-thons events, where programmers, developers and people in the tech space gather to collaborate on software projects.
Images supplied by Kutullo Makgatho
Follow Kutullo on Twitter: @Fema_STI
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